Chief executive calls protection of local news ‘vital for democracy’

Our Chief Executive has called for more to be done to protect local news to preserve “an essential pillar of democracy”.

Writing in the Times Danny Cammiade, vice-chairman of the News Media Association, has warned that local journalism needs support “to innovate and flourish”.

He writes: “Without it, we risk social media — where fake news can go unchecked and unchallenged — becoming a primary source for local news.”

Danny said: “With the dominance of the tech giants, local publishers’ transition to a digital-first business model is constantly challenged.

“News content is worth an estimated £1 billion to Google and Facebook, yet publishers do not receive fair remuneration.

“Legislation to level the playing field is coming, but the process needs to be sped up. The Digital Markets Unit exists in shadow form but does not have the statutory powers it needs.

Support needed

“Last year, government spent only 2 per cent of its advertising budget in local media, compared to 17 per cent with Google and Facebook. Diverting a bigger proportion of its advertising spend into local media would help it to connect with communities.”

The Government should consider other options to help local publishers, added Danny.

“Expanding the business rates relief scheme, extending creative industries tax reliefs to local publishers and introducing a tax credit system for advertisers are targeted, short-term interventions government can implement,” he said.

“The BBC’s plans to expand its online local news services, moving into a space already well served by commercial providers, threaten local publishers and put at risk the diversity of choice that consumers enjoy.

“Yet despite the challenges, our industry is innovating. One example is the launch of the Public Notice Portal, which will extend the reach of public notices through local media’s online platforms.

“Local news brands are part of our communities and an essential pillar of democracy. Let us act now to ensure a prosperous future for local journalism.”

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